Candidate Review:

Genetic Influences on Neural Circuitry for Human Reward Processing

Joshua W. Buckholtz* and David H. Zald┬ž

*Neuroscience Graduate Program, Vanderbilt University Medical School, U1205 Medical Center North, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.
┬žDepartment of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37240, USA.
Correspondence to J.B. e-mail:

Abstract | Full Text | PDF

From the drunkard Noah of the Old Testament to the cannabis abusing hashishins of 12th century Persia and on to the present day, drug and alcohol addiction have been recognized as a scourge of mankind since the beginning of recorded history. Current estimates suggest that as many as 9% of Americans meet the DSM-IV criteria for substance use disorders1,2, and the economic burden of substance abuse (including costs relating to crime, lost productivity, treatment, incarceration and law enforcement) has been assessed at approximately half a trillion dollars3. Thus, addiction is a highly prevalent and enormously costly public health issue. However, it is noteworthy that despite the fact that all drugs of abuse are highly reinforcing, only a relatively small percentage of individuals exposed to these drugs go on to develop the destructive pattern of compulsive drug seeking and use that is the hallmark of addiction4. Characterizing sources of individual differences in risk and elucidating their mechanisms of action will aid in the identification of novel therapeutic targets for addiction; as such, these research aims represent crucial next steps in advancing treatment options for individuals afflicted with substance use disorders.